Wednesday, October 7, 2009

So, after fall cleaning, what now???

This is a follow up to my most recent post about fall cleaning and pruning of relationships that have reached an ending. To be honest, when I sat down to write that blog, I wasn't sure if I would wind up posting it. I wondered if it might be too confrontational and hit too closely on emotionally raw nerves for a lot of people. I walked away from the post a couple of times, but it kept pulling me back in, until finally, I finished writing it and posted it. To my surprise, I have had several responses already, from friends and new acquaintances, thanking me for giving voice to an admittedly difficult topic. Clearly, I did hit on a common nerve there, as this pruning of unproductive ties is fraught with emotions, fears, regrets and self-blame.

So, I sat and thought for a while, about my own experiences with this topic. It has only been perhaps the last 10 years of my life that I have come to a sense of peace about the cycles of friendship. I freely admit that for the first half of my life, I fought letting go of any and every relationship tooth and nail. I cried, I panicked, I overreacted, I wound myself into multiple tangled knots of emotional angst. Did any of this help or bring the relationship back into a current pattern in my life? Of course not. Did all of that wailing and gnashing of teeth serve any purpose at all, other than to make myself miserable? Probably not.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying we should ignore the grieving process that we all are faced with when a friendship comes to an end. This is a process that deserves your time and focus. Grieving is necessary to cleanse our souls, help our hearts heal as much as possible, and to process through myriad emotions. That being said, looking back, I can regard my past reactions with a large dose of amusment. If I could go back in time and speak to myself at those specific moments of experiencing loss, I would say to the person I was then, quite sincerely, that everything would be okay. The pain does come to an end, and as with all endings, eventually a point is achieved where happy memories rise to the surface more readily than the sad moments of loss.

So, how did I reach my current state of awareness with the whole process of accepting endings with much more equanimity and inward peace? It wasn't easy, that would be the first thing to admit. At some point, I ran across a comment that pointed out two choices - one was that I could choose to be resentful, angry, hurt and exist in a constant state of grieving for a relationship lost, i.e., I could, quite literally choose to exist in the past. The other choice was that I could choose to celebrate the time spent enjoying that person and the interaction of the friendship, tuck it away in a corner of my heart, and move forward and live my life. That rang a very loud bell for me, realizing that the choice was completely in my hands, and therefore, the emotional reaction was my responsibility also.

Yes, grief will be there when you end a relationship, as well it should. If you choose to celebrate the time you have with that person, or that job, or that group, and be thankful for the endless ways in which you grew as a result of the contact, it really does make the ending easier to accept. I would go so far as to say that embracing endings in an open, joyful manner can build a future reconnecting moment, when the timing is right for both of you.

Yes, you will wrestle with moments of guilt, you will question your decision - is this the right thing or wrong thing to do - you may even change your mind a couple of times before making permanent changes. All of these choices are completely okay. You are the only person who can know what feels right in any given situation. And believe me, you will recognize immediately when you have made that right choice - you will most likely feel a sense of relief and peacefulness inside as a result. I know that that is usually my reaction, although getting there can admittedly be a challenge at times.

I guess the most important thing to relate is to be kind to yourself. Have you ever given that some dedicated thought? We beat the absolute crud out of ourselves emotionally in ways that would appall us if we saw the same treatment being visited on a loved one. Navigating your way through life is tough. That is a plain and simple truth. Life itself is an endless series of beginnings and endings. Beginnings are usually fairly easy, fun and interesting. Endings, obviously, are a completely different scenario.

Treat yourself and your emotional health with the same amount of respect that you give to strangers, or colleagues. How's that for a concept?? Why not try being that much of a friend to yourself as well? I realize that that sounds so simplistic as to be annoying, but it is equally simple in truth.

If you are allowing yourself to remain in a relationship that has become toxic, that drags you down, that pulls your attention constantly into useless emotional negativity, you owe it to yourself and your own life path to put that relationship to an end. You cannot grow or progress on your own personal journey when you are indulging a relationship that hinders your growth. I would also go so far as to suggest it hinders the other person's growth as well. Another important bit of wisdom that I remember my Grandmother Reagan imparting to me at a very young age was that it isn't so much the situation itself that is so important - that moment is merely a catalyst. It is how you react to a given moment that defines you and your character.

So, long story short, in regard to the "What now?" question, I think the best advice is, quite simply, to live your life. Accept your frailties, your faults and your own part in the culmination of a relationship, congratulate yourself for undertaking one of life's more difficult challenges and seeing it through, and then live your life. Be happy. Celebrate the new beginnings that are approaching, because this much is certain....they are on their way to you daily. Believe in yourself and the choices you make. All will be well as a result.

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